THE PANDEMIC INSPIRES NEW WAYS OF MEMORIALIZING THE DEPARTED

Fred Garber a much loved pastor in the Elizabethtown, PA area died on March 20, 2020 at the age of 71. Fred, along with his wife Linda, had pastored the Bossler Mennonite Church. Fred had developed a chronic lung condition years ago. He was told by a physician that he had five years to live. Fred did not believe this prognosis and so he told no one about it outside the family. By God’s grace, he lived for over 20 years beyond the time he was given that word from the doctor.

Pastor Doug Lamb, leader of the Etown Ministerium, informed the area pastors of Fred’s passing. In response to Doug’s email, many area pastors responded to Doug with their favorite memories and high regard for Fred.

Doug, himself, commented: “Fred led the prayer time at 6 am every Saturday at Cornerstone Youth Center for the last eleven years. Fred was never discouraged by low attendance in that prayer meeting. He persisted faithful in prayer. He was humble and down to earth. I will never be able to measure up to his depth and his determination to know the Lord and to love others.

Nelson Bechtold, Bishop in the Elizabethtown District of the Mennonite Church where Fred served, stated, “ Fred was my friend and confidant. Having started in ministry about the same time, we valued the honest conversations we could have about the joys and challenges of ministry. I will miss him.”

One pastor recalled the story of how Fred had volunteered to read in a local public school kindergarten. The little boy to whom he was assigned was very shy and crawled under the table. Fred got down on the floor and talked to the child and they became friends. Then Fred, lying on the floor under the table, read to the child.

The pastor observed, “May we all be inspired by Fred to learn to crawl under the table, or whatever it takes, to show love to those who are hurting.”

Wayne Lawton, pastor of Cedar Hill Community Church, and a friend of Fred, woke up from a grieving dream about Fred with the inspiration that someone should write an article for the local Etown newspaper about Fred and include comments that the area pastors had made.

Wayne contacted several persons about writing the article but no one volunteered.

So when there was no one who responded, Wayne wrote a loving article about Fred and the comments that were shared. The article was published in the Elizabethtown Advocate. And it was later also picked up and published in the Faith and Values section of the Lancaster Newspapers.

These articles were a timely and meaningful way of remembering and grieving a departed friend rather than needing to wait “till a later date to celebrate the life of the departed” as many obituaries are now needing to announce.

Wayne stated that a funeral or memorial service is a very therapeutic and comforting event and helps to bring some degree of closure. Sharing this outpouring of sympathy from area pastors of various denominations and networks was an encouraging answer to a prayer Fred often prayed, “that there would be unity in the body of Christ.”

But there was one more thing Wayne wanted to see happen. He asked in a letter to me:

Could someone draw a picture of Pastor Fred getting down under the table with that young student?

Wayne observed that Fred’s act was such a beautiful example of what Jesus did in coming down from heaven to meet us where we are.

I am not that artist. But in response to the request of my friend, Wayne, I make the following request:

If you or a child you know is inspired by this mental picture of a pastor under a table reading to a child, draw a picture and send a photo of the picture to me via personal Messenger. I will share the photos with Wayne and possibly one of Fred’s family members and we will post the best on Facebook.

And Wayne will have his dream fulfilled that many will remember and be inspired by the life of Pastor Fred Garber.

Grandpa 59

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